Rett syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder seen in girls.There is no cure for this condition, and treatment is aimed at maintaining function as long as possible. One approach is to engage the child in therapeutic activities. Here are some of the different types of activities to do with children who have Rett’s, and their benefits.
As children progressively lose their motor function, and the ability to walk in the later stages, it is important to keep them as physically active as possible. Take the child out for walks to a local park, or just around the house. When walking becomes difficult, walking aids can be used. Other physical skills like bending, lifting, and movements of the arms must also be done as much as possible.
Some ideas for activities:
- Obstacle Course
- Swimming and water games
- Ball games
- Swings, Slides
- Therapy Ball Activities
Sensory activities can help to reduce self stimulatory behavior and decrease hypersensitivity. These activities aim at providing sensory input - visual, auditory, tactile, vestibular and olfactory. Some children with Rett’s respond more to a particular sensation whilst others may not be able to tolerate high levels of a specific sensation. Thus, sensory activities must be approached with caution, and the response of the child should be monitored continuously. Sensory activities in the form of games, or other pleasurable experiences are more effective.
Some ideas for activities:
- Playing with brightly colored toys (Visual)
- Looking at picture books (Visual)
- Playing with a toy that lights up when buttons are pressed (Visual)
- Pressing the keys of a piano (Auditory)
- Different types of rattles (Auditory)
- Singing (Auditory)
- Playing with Play Dough (Tactile)
- Finger Painting Tactile)
- Baking (Tactile, Olfactory, Gustatory)
Occupational therapists often work with people with Rett’s to teach them to perform various self-care activities. At the later stages, they may suggest adapted aids or techniques to make it easier for caregivers. Self-care activities provide sensory input, and are beneficial to children with Rett’s. Some examples of self care activities are:
- Brushing teeth
- Putting on a shirt
Fine Motor Activities
Fine motor activities help to improve motor coordination and voluntary control. Children with Rett’s have stereotypical behaviors of their hands, and often do not use them functionally. Keeping them engaged in fine motor activities will help maintain function for a longer time. Some examples for simple fine motor activities are:
- Pressing a button or switch in a toy
- Placing a wooden block into a box
- Squeezing a toy
It is important to engage children with Rett’s in leisure and play activities. These help them to interact with the world around them in an enjoyable way. Children with Rett’s play with toys and other objects. They may not be able to follow and play complex games or group games. Simple sensory games are pleasurable for them.
Educational activities can also be used with young children with Rett’s to stimulate their brain and encourage learning. However, while planning goals for a child, the nature and progression of the condition must be kept in mind. Children may benefit and enjoy puzzles, simple science activities, or looking at picture books.
Thus, these are some of the different types of activities to do with children who have Rett’s Syndrome. Modify these activities and their complexity depending on the stage of the disorder.
Scruggs A. Rett Syndrome: Characteristics, Causes, and Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.lynchburg.edu/Documents/GraduateStudies/Journal/ScruggsA.doc
NINDS. Rett Syndrome Fact Sheet. Retrieved from NINDS: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/rett/detail_rett.htm
In addition to these references, this article has been written based on the experience of the writer, who is an occupational therapist